Yes, in this post I am going to talk about that last stretch whenever one is just about to finish a project, the school year, whatever… Several posts ago I talked about 5-hour ‘Ateliers’ in the kitchen which prepared the students for the final exam. Quickly, the moment during which one doesn’t even know what your own name is, arrived. However, even though the accomplishment can almost be touched, there’s that last 100-meter sprint one’s still missing. I’m sure you all know what I mean.
Needless to say, this aspiring Cuisine Diploma graduate hadn’t taken an exam causing so many butterflies in my stomach in many moons. So, I had not only to prepare in the theory and practice of the test in question, but also in the emotional aspect of it all. The first part of the exam was the written part, and even though this was no worry for any of the students, it was a good source to score points which may come in handy in the final average. Then, we had what I deemed was the most important test of them all, the practical. This exam lasted 4 hours, hence, one hour less than the workshops did, which complicated the ‘gig’ quite a bit. During all this time, where every minute I think was of vital importance to take the most advantage as possible, I had to prepare a two service-meal which would include: A starter course created with one sole deboned quail. Additionally, on the side there had to be a purée, a vinaigrette and a sauce or jus, plus another twenty or so products. Afterwards, I had to reproduce an entrée whose elements had been prepared throughout the session. To be able to obtain the recipe, we had a list of ingredients and a photograph. To have perfect cooking and seasoning was not only of utmost importance, but the plating had to be as planned, and of course, within the allotted time frame. If the candidate were to serve any of the plates late, a 2% of the final grade would be deducted per minute; very expensive. This could put anyone in serious trouble. Lastly, all the work plan had to be presented in a written dossier either in English or in French, in order to allow the Chefs to know beforehand how the preparations would be worked, and what they could expect before tasting. At the end of the day, surprisingly, I felt more at ease in French.
Quite honestly, I have got to say that even though I had invested hours and hours to plan my dish and although I had trained both recipes at home, I wasn’t totally sure to come out of the kitchen knowingly I had done a good job. I didn’t know if I had been able to conquer the taste buds of the jury. At home, my test run had been good, but it had taken me more than the four hours I were to have the day of the exam. I had to do my best and expect no problems whatsoever. Therefore, I made a very detailed plan (color coded and even play by play) in order for stress and nerves no to take over me.
So, I arrived to school very anticipatedly. I was ready and in front of the kitchen door waiting to enter at least 20 minutes before my starting time (10:30 AM). Just as per the rules stated, the Chef in charge of giving the exam let me enter the kitchen 10 minutes before I were to begin, so I could set up in my station. I took out my notes, the necessary utensils, turned on the fires and the oven, and took the necessary ingredients to my fridge.
As the clock stroke 10:30 on the dot, I started to cook full speed ahead, following the order I had set in my work plan. The minutes passed by extremely fast. In my perception, never had I felt time pass by so fast; promise. For a moment, I felt in despair, for I felt I was not advancing in my list, but as I pulled myself together, I realized I was doing everything as planned and on on time; at least according to my calculation. At 2:00 PM I sent out my starter course, and precisely 30 minutes later, my main course went out. Now, all I had to do was clean and patiently wait. I was so nervous. I had given it my best shot. I felt no big mistakes had been done, even though I wasn’t completely comfortable with the sauce accompanying my fish, but matter of factly, it was the only aspect that disturbed me a tiny bit. Truly, there was nothing that wouldn’t let me sleep that night.